Virginia Morris Answers Viewer Questions on Caring For Elderly

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The programs and services available vary widely from one community to the next, and they come from both the public and private sector. Obviously, there will be more services in a city than in a rural area, but most areas have some sort of volunteer visitor program, meal delivery program, transportation services, adult day services, and a homemaker service. You should contact the area agency on aging (www.eldercare.gov), the local senior center, churches and synagogues, as well as any organization linked to a specific disease you might be dealing with (such as the Alzheimer's Association).

Lee from Casselberry, Fl: What do you when you're not in a position to help an aging parent who's struggling with finances? (72-year-old father is thinking of selling family home.)

Money is always a hot issue, and one people don't discuss enough. If you cannot help a parent financially, then you can't. You'll have to help them work things out within their own budget, either through a reverse mortgage (which is not paid back until they sell the house); by taking advantage of various low-cost programs, services and discounts; and eventually, by getting them on Medicaid.

Even if you are in a position to help, many people chose not to, and this is also perfectly okay. Money is a very personal thing, as is one's relationship with a parent, and people have to make their own decisions about this.

Pamela from Henderson, Ky: How do you tactfully tell a friend or neighbor that their aging parents need help and care, and that it is time for the children to step up and take responsibility?

Keep it general and friendly at first. Perhaps ask, "How are your parents doing these days? I see your mom going to the grocery with her cane, and wow, it's terrifying to watch her try to get those groceries into the house!" If you don't get much reaction, be more direct next time: "You know, I'm really worried about your parents being alone there. I found your Dad out on the sidewalk looking very lost the other day. I think they might need some assistance."

If you suspect that the elderly couple is in danger or being seriously neglected, contact adult protective services or the police. You can usually do this anonymously. You can find more information about what to do and who to call at the National Center on Elder Abuse (www.ncea.aoa.gov).

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